United Methodist Church Way Forward Part 4: Bishops promote 'One Church plan'

If you have been following this series of posts, you know that there are three Proposals for "A Way Forward" for the United Methodist Church to preserve its institutional unity after years of conflict over theological issues surrounding sexual morality, and also how to interpret and apply the Bible and ecclesiastical authority with relation to this (and other) contentious issues.

The Commission on the Way Forward submitted 3 different proposals for ways that the UMC could deal with its conflict.  There was some confusion over whether these proposals were being submitted to the Council of Bishops for consideration and selection of only one, or if all three were to be reported directly to the General Conference.

In the end, all three proposals have been offered to the General Conference for consideration, and a majority of the Bishops (but, by no means all of them) on the Council of Bishops have chosen to "endorse" the One Church Plan, which is also sometimes called the "Local Option" plan, because it empowers local congregations, clergy, and annual conferences to make their own decisions about sexual morality and the definition of marriage.  Thus, one United Methodist congregation might hold one teaching on "God's will for Christian marriage" while another UM church across town might hold a different (even contradictory) view.

The bishops (or at least, most of them) chose to endorse this plan as an attempt to make space for liberals and conservatives, progressives and traditionalists and anyone in between to all co-exist under the same rules, with greater flexibility given to the local level.

Because the bishops chose to focus on the One Church Plan, it was by far the most "polished" of all three plans developed by the Way Forward Commission (which relates to the Judicial Council decisions discussed in post 3).

Some have grumbled that it was inappropriate for the bishops to endorse any plan at all since doing so could potentially undermine the work of the Way Forward Commission and the General Conference, and indeed the bishops are as divided as the larger church, and so the endorsement could simply be interpreted as the point of view of one faction rather than a Council of Bishops that is somehow "above the fray".

On the other hand, others have suggested that in making an endorsement the bishops are offering leadership and guidance to the church in a difficult and anxious time.  Still others have wondered if the bishops will end up with "egg on their face" or even a some kind of crisis of credibility if the General Conference does not pass their preferred plan.

I guess I keep saying this: only time will tell.  But I trust that God knows how this all plays out and, as we children used to sing, "He's got the whole world in His hands."

Here is a video featuring several of the bishops, including my own bishop, promoting the One Church Plan.

For a different perspective my next post will feature a critique of the One Church plan from one of my former seminary teachers, a prominent United Methodist Theologian, Dr. David Watson, whose leadership has helped bring revival to a (previously) declining United Methodist Seminary.

Then my final post in this series will explore some of my own reasons for opposing the One Church Plan in favor of a more traditional model of some kind (though, as you will see, there are some aspects of the Traditional Plan that I do not especially like).  There are some things I really like about the Connectional Conference Plan as well, and I'll share some thoughts on that.

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